The slavery business fostered the century-old relationship between Asanteman and Dagbon

Ya Na, paramount chief of Dagomba, Northern Region, Ghana, on a visit to the Asantehene Opoku Ware II

Narrated by Malik Alshabazz |

Disclaimer: This piece is solely intended for education and information purposes. It is not intended to undermine any person or group of persons.

The Relationship between Asanteman and Dagbon- During the reign of Naa Gariba.

The relationship between Asanteman and Dagbon dates back to the reign of Naa Gariba. Naa Gariba is the 21st Yaa-Naa to ascend the lion skin of Dagbon, right from Naa Shitɔbu. He was the son of Naa Zanjina. His reign lasted from 1700-1720.

Naa Gariba’s elder sister, Kpatu-Naa Aminara was married to Naa Andani Sigli. And he gave birth to Naa Saalan Ziblim.This makes Naa Naa Gariba a direct uncle of Naa Saalan Ziblim.When Naa Zuu Jiŋli ( Naa Bimbiɛɣu ) passed on, Yani-Kpamba chose Naa Gariba over Naa Saalan Ziblim, for the fact that Naa Saalan Ziblim was much younger and Naa Gariba was his uncle.

This didn’t go down with Naa Saalan Ziblim, for the reason that, Naa Zuu Jiŋli was a Son of Naa Zanjina and so the Next Yaa-Naa should have come from Naa Sigli-gate.Nonetheless, Yani-Kpamba chose Naa Gariba and he was coronated. Naa Saalan Ziblim was a trader. His trade sent him into far away towns down south. He had an Asante friend by name ” Anim Komoah” .

Anim Komoah was a slave trader. Naa Saalan Ziblim sold slaves he captured from the upper regions and sold them to Anim Komoah, who in turn sold them to the Asante-hene for onward barter trade with the white man.

In exchange, the Asanteman received guns, which helped them to control the constant rebellion from the Denkyira and other territories.Into the early years of Naa Gariba’s reign, Naa Saalan Ziblim approached the Gbewaa palace with strange men in cloths.

This was his friend, Anim Komoah and some Asante warriors, who were stationed at Gonjaland ( around Buipe and Kintampo)According to Naa Saalan Ziblim, they were emissaries from Asante-hene, Osei Tutu.

The Asante-hene had heard of the might of the Dagbon kingdom and wanted to foster friendship Whith the Yaa-Naa. The Asante-hene Osei Tutu wanted the help of Dagbon to deal with the insurgency from the Akyems, whose constant attack on Asanteman was becoming a nightmare for the Asante king.According to our elders, Naa Saalan Ziblim had his own plan( something not meant for social media).

Yani-Kpamba rejected their offer at first but Naa Gariba finally agreed to go and meet Osei Tutu. Naa Gariba made his preparation and gathered all his over hundred wives and embarked on the journey.

All the horses Naa Gariba mounted, fell and died, so Anim Komoah offered to let his slaves carry Naa Gariba to Asanteman. As they embarked on the journey, at every appreciable distance, Anim Komoah lost his slaves to the weight under Naa Gariba’s charms. ( this is common in Dagbon, even today.

When a regent prepares well during his father’s funeral, horses die under the weight of his charms). By the time they reached the shores of Yeji, Almost all the slaves of Anim were dead.

The slave raider sent messages to the Asantehene complaining of how he had lost his slaves and the sort of man he was bringing to Asanteman.The Asantes had a station at Buipe, where they had a military collaboration with their Guan- family ( the Gonjas). The Gonjas then controlled lands from Yeji all the way to Kimtampo and its environs.

The Yogbunwura lost some of these lands when the new Brong Ahanfo region was curved out.Naa Gariba did not go beyond Yeji and returned to Dagbon. But before he returned, There were several agreements which were signed by Naa Gariba and Asanteman.

The agreements were basically centred around fostering ties with Dagbon in fighting the enemies of Asanteman ( reserved) and also around trade. Dagbon warriors were sent to Kumasi and stationed at Bantama, where they helped to provide security and also to help fight the insurgents.

The Asantes were physically shorter and smaller in size. This posed a serious disadvantage in the battle fields. So when they met the Dagbon men, who were much taller and well built, a commitment was made, where the Dagbon warriors were made to take Asante women as wives ( especially from the Royal family ).

This Union helped to produce babies who were much taller and bigger like the Dagbon men. It is for this reason that the Asantes inheritance is purely matrilineal. This was because most of their fathers were Dagbon men.

This culture of inheriting from the mother side is practised in Asanteman,except places like Bantama. Inheritance in Bantama is paternal because they are of Dagbon descent. Another chief whose lineage can be traced to Dagbon in Asanteman is the Dante-hene. It is also for this reason that the Asante-hene calls the Yaa-Naa ” me nua” (my brother ) and the Yanabihi and sub-chiefs of Dagbon ( my children). This is purely based on history and not that he undermines them.

The local bullet proof vest known in Dagbon as ( Gbaɣ’no) was bequeathed to the Asanteman from Dagbon. It is what the Asantes call ” Batakari Kese”. The Asantehene and Asante warriors wear them during important rituals and durbars.

Whenever there were disturbances from the insurgents and the Asante warriors approached the Dagbon warriors, they told them ” Yen kanbom”, to with lets join forces and go to war.It is this ” Yen kan bom” which our people used and named the Asantes ” Kambonsi”. The leader of the Asante warriors was known as ” Asafohene” .

The Dagbon men couldn’t pronounce it, so they corrupted it into” Sapashi”. This is a praise name used for the Kambonsi even today.Before the war, the Asantes sounded the big war drums and told each other ” Yen Ko bo tuo” ( lets go and fire guns). Today in Dagbon, we call it ” Panpan tua”, which is a corrupt form of the statement ” Yen ko bo tuo” .

The paanpantua is now an assimilated culture in Dagbon today. The panpantua is used to assemble warriors in Dagbon whenever there is war. Another drum which has been assimilated into Dagbon culture is what is known in Dagbon as ” timpana”. The timpana is what the Asantes call ” Atunpan” .

This drum was originally not in Dagbon but was copied from Asanteman. Back in Dagbon, slave markets were stationed at several places. In Yendi, there is a place called ” Kambon Nyaaŋa”. This was one of the places where the Asantes who came to Dagbon were stationed and slaves were tied. The Asante warriors also taught Dagbon how to use the gun at these centres.

Another known center for the slave trade is a place known today as ” Boakye krom”. This is situated around Saakpuli. The main slave buyer was known as Boakye and that is how the place got its name. The slave business became brisk and most Dagbon chiefs were noted for going to the upper regions to capture slaves and sold them to the Asante slave buyers.

These Asante men who stayed in Dagbon during this period married Dagbon women and gave birth to children. They gave their children Asante-names and some of these names have become chieftaincy titles among the Dagbon warriors.Notable among them are; Achiri (okyere), Adu, jahanfo, Anim, Achampong, Daasu, Monkua, Montana….etcTill date, families of these Kambonsi still have names such as Mba Kwame, Mba kojo and so on.

Aside from the fact the kambonsi still bear their Asante names, the Kambon-nanima ( chief warriors) still wear the kente when they attend important durbars and they sit on the stools like Asante chiefs, instead of the usual animal skins known to Dagbon. Even the very appellations which are used to address them are in twi ( pronounced differently because of difficulty in pronouncing some of the words by the drummers of Dagbon).

So, you’ll often hear their appellations like;” Ntumtum biri wia biri kwa” – mosquitoes rise in the afternoon for nothing. Cos they’ll not get anyone to bite.

” Onipaboni surumanku ” which is supposed to be ” onipa boni suro moko” – A bad person fears pepper.”

Onipa boni chirimanku” which is supposed to be ” Onipa boni cheri moko” – A bad person is worse than pepper.

All these practices still abound in Dagbon today. And their coming into existence was forged through trade and friendship and not through war or hostility which early Asante elites have sought to propound.

And this irrevocable ties was forged during the time of no other person, but your grandfather, Naa Gariba

” ŋuma ŋuma Yɛligu ni kari sani kpɛhi yɔɣu”” Dabirigu nya vali daŋ fabila”” Ban laɣim ʒiya ni kahim nima”

When Naa Gariba passed on, his nephew, Naa Saalan Ziblim took over the Gbewaa skin and this brotherhood and trade continued under his reign and the Asante king Opoku ware.

So, when the current Yaa-Naa, calls himself Naa Gariba, it is not by coincidence that the Asantehene led the process which contributed to the restoration of unity and his ascendency to the Gbewaa Skin.Indeed,

History does repeat! May God strengthen the bond between Asanteman and Dagbon make these kingdoms great and strong.

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